Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Steppenwolf, blogache, secession and music

Imagine this scenario. You're standing in a coffee shop, next to a man who has just died and his cell phone rings. What do you do?? More on that later in this edition, but first . . . oh my aching blog. I am so behind in keeping up with my self-imposed three entries per week schedule that I am backing off from that and downsizing my goal to once a week. It gets worse. I somehow tossed the majority notes I made about news headlines that attest to the statement "truth is stranger than any fiction." Could anyone have made up a story about a priest disappearing off the coast of Brazil after floating off with 1,000 helium balloons? Granted, I've had wistful thoughts at times about what such a fantasy flight would be like, but get real. Yes, this is a sad story for the apparently deceased priest and his followers. However, I doubt if even the (apparently dead) risk-loving adventurer, Steve Fossett, would've tried that one. Here's a headline that would've made a great 1950s horror film: "Australian hospital closes after being overrun by poisonous spiders." This could've been the biggest of the gigantic-atomic-insects-go-wild genre of the '50s. And while the sagas about the polygamy sect and the Austrian father from hell create hard-to-fathom headlines, the stories are far too serious to treat lightly. Meanwhile, Illinoisans continue to follow the horror headlines about how we're all getting totally ripped off by the city of Chicago (even suburbanites are hit), Crook County and our pay-as-you-go-to-the-top state government. So how bad is Cook County? Well, some resident of Tinley Park proposed the village secede from Cook and become part of Will County. According to a news report, Tinley Park Mayor Ed Zabrocki said while the idea is worth looking at, the process would be complex and lengthy. Personally, I think secession is a great idea. Meanwhile, if you want to submit any headlines for a future blost, please email me at Oh, I am not using my short-lived gmail account. It has proved cumbersome and far more complex and time-consuming than comcast mail. Music lovers who live in the metro area or plan to visit sometime this year should take a few minutes and check out the Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra ( under the direction of the Carmon DeLeone whose mere presence brightens a room. This fall, the IPO moves to its new home at Lincolin-Way North Performing Arts Center, just south of Interstate 80 on Harlem Avenue in Mokena, Illinois. While the Chicago Symphony Orchestra has its reputation and gilded names, the IPO offers incredible talent, in fact a tangible gold mine worth of treasures, every year. More than that, the IPO with DeLeone on the podium brings heart and soul to music in all genres. And then there are the program notes by Dr. Charles "Chuck" Amenta, gems for sure. Who else would report that Franz Joseph Haydn had such a magnificent voice as a choirboy that forces were about to do some serious surgery on the kid so his voice wouldn't change. As Amenta notes in the program, "Fortunately Hadyn's father rushed to the sccene to prevent any unkind cuts." Oh yes, Amenta also shares his extraordinary wealth of music information with concert-goers, but one can always count on spice and humor between the lines of serious music talk. Meanwhile, those who have heard the IPO do not need to be convinced. Those who have not been to an IPO concert, should at least check out next year's schedule as well as the upcoming Zuell Bailey concert on May 16. This orchestra truly performs the proverbial something for everyone -- unless you're into heavy metal. The IPO can be reached at (708) 481-7774. Now for the cell phone. Playwrite Sarah Ruhl creates that exact scenario in her compelling, often humorous play, "Dead Man's Cell Phone," now at Chicago's legendary Steppenwolf Theatre. Directed by the award-winning Jessica Thebus, "Dead Man's Cell Phone" runs through July 27. Hermia, the woman at the center of this play, takes the leap and answers the poor guy's phone. From that point on, she places herself into his life and keeps his phone with her, answering it at every ring. The entertaining, and quite bizarre but believable, storyline seems to reinforce an old Jewish belief that a person remains alive as long as her/his memory is kept alive. Through Hermia, Ruhl (probably unknowingly) restates that belief in contemporary terms. Hermia says, "As long as his cell phone rings, he's alive." Ruhl's commentary on contemporary life, via her characters, ring true at so many points in the script. I left wondering, "Where does our culture go from here?" The acclaimed Steppenwolf, the theatrical home of many famous actors including Gary Sinise (one of three founders), Joan Allen, Kathryn Erbe, Frank Galati, John Mahoney, John Malkovich, Laurie Metcalf, Amy Morton, Martha Plimpton -- to name only a few -- is at 1650 N. Halsted St., Chicago. The production is in the upstairs theater and tickets ($20-$68) are available day of show, starting at 11 a.m. at audience services, (312) 335-1650.


photo by sarah gross

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Tinley Park, Illinois
As a longtime newspaperwoman who left the business to freelance, I want to keep in touch with the world. This is my place to reach out with words.